Category Archives: Damn Good!

Wiser’s One Fifty Commemorative Series

As a proud Canadian, I was pretty excited to get my hands on a bottle of Wiser’s One Fifty a few weeks ago, ahead of this past July 1st. Had I been better at this blogging hobby of mine, I might have had my review ready to publish on Canada Day… Ah well, better late than never, I suppose!

Wiser’s One Fifty is a special release, 17 year old whisky. (Although I’ve heard that there are some casks in this blend that are older that that.) To mark the 150th birthday of our nation, spirit was laid down in 2000 to form the base of this special commemorative release. A total of 7827 limited edition bottles were created, one for each week of Canada’s existence. My particular bottle is #7628, commemorating the week of Sept 2, 2013. From what I have read, this whisky is a blend of corn and rye whiskies. It is bottled at 43.4% abv and it cost me $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

In the bottle, I’m struck by the deeper reddish hue, which immediately connects me to the Canada Flag. Whether or not this was intentional, I can only hope it’s due to natural colours, imparted through casking. In the glass, however, my dram appears a rich, deep amber, with hints of bright copper, rather than red. A tilt of my Canadian Glencairn creates a crest that reluctantly releases thick stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

My note from my initial tasting session was, “Clean and straightforward”, and I think this sums up the nose rather nicely. Aromas of caramel, toffee, vanilla and dusty rye spice provide a classic and delicious Canadian whisky nosing experience along with a distinct oaky note and subtle, punky corn, as well. 

On the Tongue

Silky mouthfeel, thanks to the corn distillate, I imagine. Dry, spicy rye flavours dominates the palate, however. This is not a dram that follows the current trend of premium Canadian whiskies that showcase the floral side of rye, which I believe comes from the use of malted rye. Instead, Wiser’s One Fifty chooses to highlight a more traditional profile. Cereal graininess and peppery, spicy rye! A subtle minty flavour adds interest, while a fruity, almost berry-like note on the exit further wakes up my tastebuds. The finish is quite dry, medium in length, with caramel and loads of oak, along with pink peppercorns and bitter citrus pith. The finish reminds me somewhat of cough syrup, which is not nearly as bad as it may sound!

Final Thoughts

I love floral, malted-rye character in my Canadian whiskies but Wiser’s One Fifty reminds me how much I also enjoy the dusty, spicy, clean profile of a traditional rye grain whisky. This is a well-composed, well-made Canadian whisky. Smooth and easy drinking, yet surprisingly complex and mature, this is a terrific dram! If you happen to see a bottle kicking around, don’t let it slip away!

Woodford Reserve

Another bourbon followed me home… 

My growing fondness for the American spirit (and my annoyance at the ever-increasing price of scotch) has me going for bourbon as often as anything, lately. This time, it’s a dram I haven’t tried before: Woodford Reserve “Distiller’s Select” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I’ve been intrigued by this whiskey the last couple times I’ve visited the bottle shop, admittedly at least partly because of the unique oversized flask style bottle. The label tells me that I have chosen bottle #3309 from batch 0238. Since Woodford Reserve is a readily accessible blend, I have no clue if these numbers are at all meaningful to the actual product inside the bottle. This whiskey is bottled at 45.2% abv and cost me about $50 CDN. 

To the Eye

Look at that deep mahogany, with flashes of coppery orange… Is there a more appealing looking dram than a bourbon? The requisite twist of my glass produces quick, skinny rivulets. 

In the Nose

The typical bourbon aromas are all there and the alcohol greets my nostrils sharply, but not harshly. Vanilla, citrus and brown sugar are front and centre but I’m left wondering if custard is a reasonable description.  There is an interesting, delicious floral quality about this whisky that has me suspecting that malted rye might be in the mash bill. A bit of milk chocolate, oak wood and pepper round out the nosing experience.

On the Tongue

Smooth, yet a nice firm bite! I’m finding that this bite is one of the things I hope for in my first sip of bourbon. (Does that mean I’m officially a bourbon drinker?) A slightly oily mouthfeel makes for a creamy sensation that is full of oak, corn flakes, vanilla, and baked apples. There is plenty of sweetness, but I find it nicely balanced by a charred, toasty quality. That malted-rye floral character makes a reappearance, which I really enjoy. 

The finish is medium, with a rich, creamy quality. More oak, graphite and burnt sugar. The chocolate also returns. 

Final Thoughts

Woodford Reserve is a delicious, fruity bourbon that is well-composed and nicely balanced. I have tasted better bourbons but I find this one to be very interesting and appealing to my Canadian, rye-trained palate. (I have no idea if I’m correct about the rye-malt, but that is what I smell and taste when I drink this whiskey.) I have a feeling that this bourbon will be a  frequent resident of my liquor cabinet!

Auchentoshan 2000 Single Cask #1757 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

So, I was just up to the city for yet another of my son’s spring hockey games and, on the way home, we happened to stop for a bite right beside a big new bottle shop… What a coincidence! Well, with yet another graduate course recently put in the rear view, I figured I deserved to whip in and see if there were any treasures to be uncovered. I’m not sure if it’s a treasure or not, but I did find an independent bottling of Auchentoshan, a distillery I quite enjoy. This whisky was bottled in 2014 by Berry Bros. & Rudd, from Auchentoshan cask #1757, which was laid down in the year 2000, making it a 13 yr old expression. There was no carton for this bottle but the rear label explains that this bottling was produced exclusively for the North American market. This whisky is 53.6% abv and costs about $95 CDN. 

To the Eye

Pale, straw-gold in colour. A twist of my Glencairn builds a crest that reluctantly releases fat, exceedingly stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

Apples, which are always front and centre for me, when nosing an Auchentoshan. But, on this dram, these apples seem decidedly more crisp and tart, more like a green Granny Smith than the usual sweet, ripe reds I tend to pick up from this distillery. Werther’s Original caramels, vanilla and cotton candy are also quite assertive. With time, more subtle aromas also join the party: malt, leather and a dry grassy note. 

On the Tongue

Whoa! This whisky is much richer and more potent than the typical core expressions from Auchentoshan – I guess an extra 13-14% abv will help with that! The mouthfeel is much thicker and creamier, as well. Flavours of juicy fruits, particularly stone fruit preserves jump out at me, along with Cuban honey (if you’ve had it, you understand the difference), sweet malted grain and real black licorice flavour. There is herbal, citrusy note that arrives toward the end… not exactly understated but a bit more like a lime-basil than like the actual citrus fruit. Either way, the tang is a welcome counterpoint to the sweet flavours at the onset. There is a satisfying alcohol burn in this dram, which creates a tingling, effervescent finish of medium length, full with pineapple, more licorice and a hint of barrel wood… this may sound unusual, but the finish is a little reminiscent of drinking a nice Chardonnay. 

Final Thoughts

I’m impressed! I’ve long appreciated Auchentoshan whiskies and this is a very good one. I have not gotten in to many independent bottlings but this single cask offering by Berry Bros. & Rudd has me thinking I’ve ignored this category of whisky for long enough. It’s rich, sophisticated and well-composed! Complex, yet smooth, but still providing a nice burn. Delicious and highly recommended – if this was a more readily available dram, I would consider labelling it as a new favourite!

Baker’s Bourbon

My exploration of bourbon continues…

A gradual, but pleasant, by-product of my love for whisk(e)y is that a lot of my friends and family members have become interested in more premium spirits. Growing up, I can recall my Dad pouring the occasional Alberta Springs and cola and I remember fighting with my brother for the “throwing star” off of his bottles of Seagram’s Five Star…

But I digress. The point is that, today, my old man is a likely to pull out as bottle of Ninety 20 Yr Old or Glenlivet 15 and pour out a couple healthy drams straight up as he is to suggest a beer. Hell, even my Mom will enjoy a drop of the good stuff these days! I also take credit for several buddies who now fancy themselves as whisky aficionados, which is good since, as they I have been known to say, more drinking buddies means more drams! My brother-in-law is another recent whisky convert and, when he was putting me up for a few nights while I attended my teacher’s convention in the big city, it seemed only right to bring a bottle along. I chose Baker’s 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which is bottled at 53.5% abv and cost me about $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

I’ve said it before but the appearance of a good bourbon is very appealing to me. Baker’s is a deep amber gold with flashes or coppery-orange… It looks good enough to drink!

In the Nose

Classic bourbon aromas jump out of the glass: caramel, vanilla, oak and sweet corn. I expected more of an alcoholic astringency, based on the higher proof but there is actually very little. A bit of time reveals a sharp citrus tang and a woody note that is different from the initial oakiness but I can’t decide if it’s more like pine or cedar. Regardless, it smells good! I think there are also some canned plums, cloves and cinnamon lurking in the background. I also get a touch of yeasty funk, which is pretty typical for Beam products. 

On the Tongue

A nice grainy, kettle-corn sweetness is well balanced by oak tannins and pink peppercorns. There is a definite rye spiciness about this bourbon. The cinnamon I noticed on the nose is much more assertive on the palate, along with some surprising fruitiness – dark ripe cherries, perhaps. Vanilla and toffee round out the flavours and ensure a true bourbon experience. This whiskey has a satisfying burn that carries the medium-long finish of oak, walnuts and vanilla. 

Final Thoughts

Baker’s 7 Yr Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon seems to be yet another excellent bourbon! It offers pretty much everything that I am attracted to in America’s major contribution to the whisk(e)y scene. A lingering thought is just how damned drinkable this whiskey is! It is exceedingly smooth and approachable, despite the higher alcohol content. I am left kind of wondering, however, where this dram fits in the Beam lineup. Knob Creek offers similar characteristics at a slightly lower proof, older age statement and a lower price point. Booker’s, on the other hand, costs more but packs a much higher proof and intense flavours. 

In the end, I have decided that Baker’s is a very fine whiskey in it’s own right and one I am likely to buy again. 

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

You know, the more I drink bourbon, the more I like bourbon…

How’s that for a philosophical opening statement?  It’s funny though, because I can remember a time, not so long ago, when I thought bourbon was really inferior stuff. No longer, however! I now find myself perusing the American whiskey aisles in my local bottle shops as often as I visit the scotch sections. And, while it’s kind of a chicken-egg thing, I have realized that I prefer bourbon-barrelled scotch whiskies over other finishing regimes. The thing I am enjoying the most about my growing infatuation with bourbon, though, is that it has opened an entire new category of taste experiences for me to enjoy. 

This brings me to my most recent purchase: a bottle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This dram is aged for 9 years before being bottled at 100 proof (50% abv). This whiskey cost me $50 CDN. 


To the Eye

I’ve said it before, I love the colour of a proper bourbon! Deep amber, almost coppery-orange with flashes of brighter gold. Very appealing… A swirl of my Glencairn reveals a crest that eventually releases extreeeeeeemely stubborn, thick legs!

In the Nose

Brown sugar, burnt sugars and cinnamon are the first aromas to greet me. What really strikes me is an absence of alcohol burn. Some rye spiciness, more distinct cinnamon and some oak soon join the party.  Time in the glass eventually allows a ginger-bread quality to develop, along with a pine note and maybe a touch of marshmallow. 

On the Tongue

Nicely balanced. Caramel popcorn and oak form the backbone of this dram but there is also a fruitiness about it… apricot jam continually comes to mind. The are more subtle qualities woven amongst the more dominant flavours too: that rye spice is lurking in the background, along with a charred flavour that is not quite smoky, but more like something off the grill – barbequed corn-on-the-cob?  It’s not as sweet as I fear I’m making it sound. A little bit of cocoa powder and some vanilla are also evident. 

The finish is long. Actually, what’s longer than long? Seriously, the flavours linger on and on, several minutes after each sip. Oak for sure, but those sweet, ripe apricots return as well and almost gain strength before fading to something cherry-like (more like cherry wood than the actual fruit) and a smack of hazelnut at the end.

Final Thoughts

Delicious stuff! I still don’t know if I know enough about bourbon to make a statement like this, but Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon just seems to be an honest, well-crafted whiskey. It tastes like good bourbon! I have had whiskies that knocked my socks off more than this dram… Yet, those apricots! But for my money, this bottle is a very good value. I’m sure it won’t be a one-off in my cabinet!

Bruichladdich – The Classic Laddie (Scottish Barley)

I can’t claim to be overly familiar with Bruichladdich malts but I can tell you that, from what I have tried, I have been fairly well impressed. Although I was initially a little underwhelmed with the Port Charlotte Peat Project, I have enjoyed some fine drams from this distillery, with the Octomore being downright fantastic!

Bruichladdich, however, intrigues me more and more these days. As I have grown to love the robust, peated Islay and West Coast styles of whiskies, the idea of completely unpeated Islay drams seem to be an interestingly dichotomous idea. The Classic Laddie is a NAS whisky bottled at 50% abv and costs about $60 in my local liquor stores. 


To the Eye

This is as good a time as any to sing the praises of Bruichladdich’s bottle presentations – I have yet to see one of this distillery’s offerings that I have not appreciated. From modern-looking cool factor to downright sexy looking, Bruichladdich is, in my opinion, at the top of the presentation game. This particular bottle is no different, with a squat, powder-blue bottle that stands out in a crowd. 

As for the whisky itself, this dram is un-chill filtered and colouring free, which are both plus factors, in my book. Slightly hazy straw-gold, with thick, extremely stubborn legs – this is, for me, an enticing looking dram

In the Nose

I will hesitate to call the aromas above my glass complex, but there seems to be a subtle sophistication about what I am experiencing. Floral heather blossoms, a soft smokiness and an interesting, slate-like mineral quality are the first characteristics that I notice. The smokiness surprises me since this is an unpeated whisky, and I assume it must come from the char in the casks. With time, dusty cereal grains become more prominent, along with a bit of honey and vanillins join the party. It is a gentle but balanced and well-composed nose!

On the Tongue

Most of the aromas are also present on the palate… Oak tannins, subtle smoke, along with a bit of bourbony caramel and vanilla are most  prominent. That floral-mineral character is also very noticeable, along with some cinnamon and cardamom. In and amongst these identifiable flavours, there is also an underlying malty graininess as well. It is quite delicious!

The finish at first seems a little on the short side but I eventually realize that this assessment is because of my impatient tendency to reach for another sip too soon. I would actually characterize the finish of The Classic Laddie as medium-long. An oaky, mineral, pencil shaving flavour arrives first but quickly makes way for a warm, peppery herbal-like sensation that reminds me of arugula. If you can exercise enough patience, this fades into a nutty, peppery, honey-drenched flourish. 

Final Thoughts

I think the highest compliment I can pay this whisky is that “NAS” didn’t cross my mind once during any of my tasting sessions. There really was nothing young about this whisky. It’s not harsh, it’s not hot, and there’s way more going on than I expected. This is not to claim Bruichladdich’s The Classic Laddie to be a very complex dram, because it’s not. But this whisky is exceedingly well-composed and very delicious. The Classic Laddie reminds me, more than a little, of Highland Park 12, which is high praise, in my opinion. This whisky is drinkable and inviting but also interesting enough to be appreciated by those with more sophisticated palates.  

Booker’s Bourbon

Lately, I find myself more and more curious about bourbon.  I’m sure that the slow but steady rise of Scotch prices is playing some sort of role in this – mostly on principle, since prices in Albrta remain fairly reasonable compared to other places. But I mostly blame this growing interest in bourbon on Four Roses Single Barrel. After only a few bottles passing through my cupboard, FRSB has quickly become one of my very favourite whiskies whiskeys, regardless of style, which has me wondering treasures there are to discover in the world of bourbon. 

As chance would have it, I was recently looking for something outstanding to share with my dramming pal, Richard, as our families were set to head out for the Okanagan on a week-long holiday together. I went looking for a bottle of FRSB but, as chance would have it, it was sold out… AGAIN… So I went to peruse the scotch wall but nothing really spoke to me. A return to the bourbon wall led to the fantastic presentation of Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon catching my eye. 

Booker’s is one of the ultra-premium bourbon offerings in the Beam-Suntory catalogue. The claim to fame for all bottling of Booker’s bourbon is that it always comes from a single barrel, completely uncut and unfiltered. Apparently, Jim Beam believed bourbon was always best somewhere between 6-8 years of aging, which is a tradition that his grandson, Booker Noe, adopted in creating his special bourbons. This particular bottle is labelled as Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Series, bottled from batch number 2015-05 after 6 years and 7 months at 128 proof, aka 64% abv. This bourbon carries a price tag of $71 in my locale. 


To the Eye

I’ve said it before but the look of high quality bourbon is really appealing to me. Rich, deep copper with flames of brighter orange… This is a beautiful looking whiskey! As my dram swirls and moves during my inspection, it almost seems to cling to the walls of my glass and leaves behind thick stubborn legs. 

This is probably the right time to note the beautiful presentation of this whiskey… Something I don’t usually do. But Booker’s has done so many things right in packaging this dram, it would be a shame not to acknowledge the efforts. From the wood-with-a-window carton that holds the wine-style bottle, to the black wax-dipped cork and “B” seal, its a good looking bottle! The faux handwritten label is a bit hokey, but is forgiven since it provides entertainment value by challenging you to find a small error, which I think I successfully located – do you see it?


In the Nose

Hellfire and brimstone! Obviously, I’m kidding, but the first whiff of this very high-proof whiskey will nearly singe your nostril hairs if it’s not allowed to adequately open up first. During my tasting regime, I discovered that upwards of 30 minutes of breathing time does wonders for enjoying the nose of this dram, even with water. 

Booker’s offers loads or caramel and butterscotch, with brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon at the forefront, with barrel notes of oak and a subtle sooty charcoal lingering in the background, along with something slightly vegetal. A splash of water tames the cinnamon and allows the wood notes to step forward, which reveals a peach-like character in the whiskey as well. Water also develops the brown sugar into maple syrup and that vegetal note comes somewhat more into focus as a minty-menthol sort of aroma. 

On the Tongue

The alcohol can grab you on the initial sip but what would you expect from 128 proof?! At full strength, caramel and peanut brittle are the first flavours that come to mind, along with a good dose of vanilla. (Very reminiscent of a “Crunch n’ Munch” combination of caramel corn and nuts.) There is some orange peel in there, as well as a definite spicy, dusty rye character. With water, that peanut brittle becomes more of a corn-syrup flavour and that orange note develops into a nice, floral marmalade. I think a little water brings the oak forward on the palate, as well. 

The finish on this whiskey is looooooonnnngggg! Especially neat, without water. Vanilla eventually gives way to leather, oak and a peppery character that is a bit like a mild green chile. All of these flavours eventually fade back toward a lovely sweetness that reminds me of graham crackers and corn bread. 

Final Thoughts

“Potent!” This was Richard’s description the first time we tried Booker’s Uncut & Unfiltered Bourbon.  Well, actually, I think it was, “Phhhhh…@#k, that’s potent!” And that’s coming from an experienced drammer! 

This is one beast of a bourbon, and it needs to be respected as such. I don’t think Booker’s will be everyone’s everyday favourite drop but it’s one that at least deserves to be tried by whiskey drinkers. Having tasted it several times now, I think I have a decent understanding about what it is and how to enjoy it. Definitely not the whiskey to grab after a few beers while barbecuing on the patio… this is a dram you pour when you’re serious about enjoying a whiskey and intending to take some time with it, allowing it to reveal itself to you. Water can come in handy with this bourbon especially since, when you think about it, you could cut it to half and it would still damn-near pass as minimum proof! I tend not to water my whiskies, however, and, even at 64%, Booker’s Bourbon manages to come across as a smooth and richly sophisticated dram, when it has been treated properly and allowed enough time to open up. The finish is among the longest I have experienced.